Since the founding of the U.S. Mint in 1792, all of its 38 directors, from David Rittenhouse to Edmund Moy, have been a political appointment. Every so often there has been a gap between the service of directors, but eventually, a director is appointed.
Currently, the U.S. Mint has not had a director since the departure of Ed Moy in January 2011. Four days later, it was announced that Deputy Director Andy Brunhart also left the U.S. Mint to take a position with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Treasurer Rosie Rios became acting director and served until Richard Peterson was hired as Deputy Director on January 25. Peterson is not an appointee but a member of the government’s Senior Executive Service. According to his biography at the U.S. Mint website, Mr. Peterson was an executive at General Electric and has a manufacturing and supply chain background. Prior to becoming the Deputy Director, Mr. Peterson was Associate Director for Manufacturing. He is a retired U.S. Naval officer, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and holds an MBA from Harvard.
In other words, Richard Peterson is well qualified to be the chief executive of the largest manufacturer of coins and medals in the world.
Since Peterson’s promotion, there has not been controversies from the U.S. Mint. Granted, there has not been many opportunities for problems, but it seems the U.S. Mint has weathered released of the five-ounce silver National Parks coins without too many controversy. Neither has the sales of the 2011 commemorative coins. Sales of the 2011 September 11 National Medal seems to be going well.
The U.S. Mint does not have a politically appointed director and it appears to be running without issue. In fact, it might be running better under a professional executive.
With the exception of the recent problems with the production of the new $100 notes that has delayed their release, the Bureau of Engraving and printing has run very well over the last few years. It is an efficient organization that maximizes its seigniorage and is able to supply the Federal Reserve with the currency it needs. Larry Felix, Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, is a government professional and not a political appointee.
Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act (22 Stat. 403) of 1883 eliminated the patronage system within the federal government. For the first time in United States history, government employment was determined by merit and not because of who you know. It has resulted in a more professional workforce and one that did not have to curry political favor.
Although the law allows the president to convert appointed positions to be civil service jobs, the Director of the U.S. Mint has remained an appointed position.
Considering the recent history of the U.S. Mint and in the best interest of the bureau, it is time for President Obama to exercise his privilege under the law and convert the job of Director of the U.S. Mint to be a civil service position.